Susan Dennis (susandennis) wrote,
Susan Dennis


After essentially working for myself, it was heaven to get a real job at a place with a steady paycheck and fabulous benefits and people to tell you what to do. It was still early days at Microsoft. January 1997. It was barely 20 years old and had fewer than 20,000 employees (they have 120,000 today). It was still the wild west in so many ways.

My job was in the Microsoft IT department. Because the company was built by geeks, it was a while before they even had an IT department and then it was only to have somebody keep count of computers, not actually do anything with them. But, of course, geeks are the worst at managing computer resources - hardware and/or software - and have the least respect for anyone who does. So even 20 years in the Microsoft IT department was treated as future road kill.

They had a big push to improve their image within the employee community and decided that communications was the way to go and they hired me to do it. OKDOKEY! It was an interesting job, to say the least.

The head of the department was a great guy who also happened to be a Sikh - full turban and all. He was also hilarious. And he smoked. So he would join those of us in the department who smoked when we'd take a break outside and we got to know him and a lot of interesting Sikh stuff.

The corporate systems at Microsoft were pretty much held together with chewing gum. The company was run on alpha level software. We were our own testers. We ate our own dog food. And it was not that pretty. We, of course, used, Exchange for email but it rarely worked well or long enough to get an email sent. So people would write an email, send it and then call the recipient to see if they got it. Seriously.

And then there was a now famous Bedlam DL3 incident. Someone in Exchange ops had created a testing mailing list, put everyone in the company on it and called it Bedlam DL3 and did not hide it. One day someone found it connected to their mail and decided to clean house so they sent a note saying 'take me off this list'. The note went to everyone in the company and within seconds, many people responded with 'me, too' and each of those went to everyone in the company. It was under an hour, I think, that the entire system crashed and died and with it any means of communicating to the employees. Everyone had voice mail but the system was not set up for mass sending plus all the phone numbers were... in Exchange.

We had a problem. It took 3 days to get the email system back up. 3 days of 20,000 employees in the dark and executives on the warpath. It was bloody.

Our offices were in a suburb called Issaquah which was great for me because the commute was long but really easy. It was about 30 minutes from our office to the main headquarters in Redmond. For two days, my job was to go into the office, get briefed by my manager and the head of IT and then get in the car and drive to Redmond and report to the executives in Building 8 and then drive back at lunch, get more info, and go back with an afternoon report. It was cutting edge non-technology.

The cleanup took about 3 months. We got t-shirts.

Another vivid memory from those days was the time my manager decided we needed a team building outing and insisted we play golf. He was the only golfer in the group. He divided us into two teams. The team I was on got to the golf course first. The team he was on arrived in a van about 5 minutes later. They announced their team name of the Turbanators except we were all laughing too hard to hear it. His team was 3 white guys and 1 really white (blond) girl and he had wrapped an official, real Sikh turban onto each one of them. It was one of the funniest things I ever saw. We laughed all damn afternoon. Oh and I won high score!

To Be Continued
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